One important lesson from recent million-dollar case between homeowner and contractor

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2024 | Commercial Litigation

Construction firms and those within the homebuilding industry have an opportunity to balance doing something they love with turning a profit. Business owners can help beautify their communities and see their neighbors make homes within houses that are a product of their construction. Since homes are often the most expensive purchase made by any family it is no surprise that expectations can run high and a failure to meet the homeowner’s hopes can result in allegations of negligence or wrongdoing.

In some cases, these allegations can rise to the level of a civil suit alleging serious wrongdoing.

In a recent example, a Texas homeowner argued that the contractors responsible for the construction of their home were grossly negligent and that the negligence directly contributed to the growth of dangerous toxic mold. The homeowner provided convincing evidence that a failed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system played a key role in the growth of toxic mold that made the home unliveable. The homeowner used the Deceptive Trade Practices Act to argue that the contractors should cover the costs related to the mold growth and provide additional funds in the form of punitive damages. Upon review of the evidence, the jury agreed and awarded the homeowner more than $3 million in damages. The court will review and may adjust the award.

What type of evidence was used in this case?

In this case, the homeowners gathered evidence to establish the following:

  • Failure to waterproof the home. The homeowners presented evidence of deficient roof flashings, poor window installation, and improper brick cladding to establish that the contractors failed to waterproof the home, allowing for water to enter the home and contribute to the growth of black mold initially undetected within the walls of the structure.
  • Improper use of spray foam. The contractors allegedly used spray foam insulation without ensuring proper exits for water. As such, the water remained in areas with the insulation, further promoting mold growth.
  • Inappropriate installation of HVAC system. The homeowners also argued that the contractors failed to install an HVAC system in a manner that allowed control of humidity levels and increased the likelihood of mold growth within the home.

The homeowners sought more than $1 million in damages to cover the cost of replacing personal items and cover the potential for medical concerns related to mold exposure, such as neurological issues.

What can contractors learn from this case?

In addition to promoting a safety culture and adherence to industry standards, business owners should note that the case involved multiple defendants. Contractors are wise to use this as a reminder of the importance of keeping proper records, potentially including contractors outlining work expectations and records of work completed. This could help mitigate the risk of getting roped into a lawsuit if another contractor fails to uphold their obligations.